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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bowling For Dollars

I have to wonder what Disney's motivation is behind pulling the plug on Michael Moore's latest film, titled Farenheit 911.

There is widespread speculation that Disney, who owns Miramax, the studio that was slated to release the film, is preventing the film from getting a theatrical release due to intense political pressure from Jeb Bush, currently the Governor of Florida, who has allegedly threatened to revoke some tax privileges enjoyed by the company on their many properties in Florida.

While I wouldn't put it past the Bush clan to try to put the screws to political opponents - ask Joe Wilson, John DiIulio, or Paul O'Neill - I can't imagine such pressure would ultimately prove effective, even if Disney in fact caved.

Somewhere in the back of my twisted mind is the notion that this whole thing is a publicity stunt. I can only imagine how obscure 2 Live Crew would be today - even more deservedly obscure than they are now - if censors both right and left hadn't been trying to shut them down. More recently, the negative publicity didn't do much harm to the bottom line for Mel Gibson's "Passion" film.

Someone will want to release this thing, and I predict that it will make money hand over fist, even if it has to start in art-house theaters the way his other films did.

The other question is what new information Moore has to bring to the table. People had to have caught on to his schtick of humiliating hapless corporate PR flacks, getting kicked out of buildings by security guards, and embarassing the occassional B-list celebrity by now. (Especially now that one of his quixotic gambits - K-Mart agreeing to restrict ammunition sales during the filming of "Bowling For Columbine" - actually worked.) "Bowling" was a deeply moving, if somewhat scattershot, piece of work, but it was at its least engaging when Moore was falling back on his tried-and-true "in your face" methods; the film was its best when Moore was able to capture small, low-key vignettes of sad truths (e.g. the newscasters in the parking lot, the interview of the teenagers in the small Michigan town where one of the Columbine killers lived) and stand back.


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